The Vanderbilt Television News Archive, founded in 1968 as a three-month “experiment” to explore possible bias in network newscasts, will mark its 50th year of continuous operation Aug. 5.
Vanderbilt’s archive—open to everyone in the world—was the very first archive to record and preserve evening newscasts and special programs broadcast by ABC, CBS and NBC. The commercials that run during the newscasts are also preserved. In 1995, the archive began capturing a portion of daily news reports from CNN and added an hour of Fox News in 2004.
The archive was the brainchild of the late Paul Simpson, a Vanderbilt Law School alumnus who was upset over what he perceived as liberal bias in the big three networks’ reporting. He was dismayed to learn that the networks did not save their own tapes when he wanted to review a network interview with LSD-proponent Timothy Leary.
The Vanderbilt Library agreed to partner with Simpson to begin recording the evening newscasts on one-inch reel-to-reel tape. Simpson and then-director Frank Grisham began their taping with the opening of the 1968 Republican Convention.
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